Sunday, September 13, 2020

Baseball is Hard

Amed Rosario is having a tough year, although it might be helpful to remember that this "year" is only a couple of months. Still, it's been quite a struggle for the young shortstop. He was considered part of the Mets core coming into the season after finishing really strong last year, and now he finds himself at the wrong end of a platoon with a younger shortstop who probably would have started the season in Triple-A if not for COVID. He enjoyed a fine offensive game last night but wound up getting picked off first to end the game. Afterward, he admitted that he wasn't even looking to steal.

Rosario has struggled to match the improved plate discipline that marked his greatly improved second half last season. His On Base Percentage is .267 through 120 PA. His defense has been fine, at least to my eyes, but Giménez is obviously a better, more polished shortstop. And the kid is only 21, and likely to get better. Of course, Rosario is only 24, and maybe that is just too young to give up on a promising player.

The Mets will have some tough decisions to make regarding their infielders this off-season. Giménez is only 21, and might actually benefit from some time in Triple-A, but it's hard to justify that move based on how well he's played. Rosario will be 25 next season, and it's hard to see how he would improve offensively playing part-time. Luis Guillorme is the veteran of the group, turning 26 in late September. His versatility is his strength, but if he continues to hit well he would deserve more playing time, maybe even a semi-regular role. Top prospect Ronny Mauricio is regarded as potentially the best of all, but at 19 he's got more developing to do before ascending to the majors.

If you feel as if Rosario can handle a part-time role, there might be some benefit to keeping him on the club, as he's the only right-handed batter of the three in the majors. There's been talk of trying him as a centerfielder, but that's a tough change to make at the Major League level. Juan Lagares made the move effectively from shortstop to centerfield, but that happened in the minors. You could try to trade Rosario in the off-season, but you'd be selling awfully low. Maybe the best thing they could consider for 2020 is to start working him out in centerfield and at least get a look at him once Luis Rojas accedes to reality and runs up the white flag on this season.

As I said, tough choices lie ahead, with the probability of a new owner and the possibility of a new GM and/or Manager to complicate the decision-making.

Because this is an opinion blog, I'm going to offer you a "for what it's worth" opinion on the matter. I don't think Rosario was projected to ever be a great defensive shortstop. I think his best case was as a competent major league fielder and an above-average hitter at the position. He had a very good second half of the year offensively last season, primarily in July and August. He had a fantastic July, slashing .350/.402/.538 for an outstanding OPS+ of 145. He was good in August, slashing .333/.359/.423, good for an OPS+ of 103, a bit above league average. By September he was back to being somewhat impatient at the plate, slashing .283/.311/.414, an OPS+ of 96.

If you were making the evaluation for the Mets, and thought that Rosario's potential was the numbers he hit in July last year, you'd be projecting an All-Star shortstop. It would be a no-brainer to give him more of a chance. If you were thinking about Rosario as the hitter he was in August/September 2019, that would add up to a potential solid Major League starting shortstop. But Giménez could achieve that level of offensive success and be a better fielder. Advantage Giménez. If you thought more like first half 2019/this season production, then you're looking at a bench player if he could adapt, Quad-A player if not. Complicating everything somewhat is that he possesses fine speed, but has shown zero acumen to be a base stealer.

Unless you're willing to commit to Rosario as a starter, you probably need to look at other options. Then you have to ask yourself how much you believe in Gimenez's bat, based on a rather small sample size. The league really hasn't had the time to fully adjust to him yet. He'll probably need to draw a few more walks to improve his offensive value. He might very well benefit from getting some time in Triple-A next year. If not, I want to see if he can go into a protracted slump and work his way out of it before I'd be comfortable with him as my Major League starting shortstop.

So, if it was up to me to take the next steps with Rosario, I would try very hard to get a preliminary look at Rosario in the outfield before this season was over. Ideally, he would play some outfield in winter ball, except it doesn't seem likely that there will be winter ball this year. If I were the GM, I would certainly listen to any potential deals for Rosario this winter, although I wouldn't be holding my breath that any other team is going to be offering any real value in return. What I wouldn't do is just unload him for peanuts, you might as well hold onto him and see how injuries and other circumstances affect things going into next season.

I wrote yesterday that I would really love to see the Mets work to implement an organization-wide balanced approach to hitting that would be taught to any player in their minor league system and continue to be emphasized at the Major League level. That doesn't mean, however, that I believe you can wave a magic wand and force every young hitter into a certain rigidly prescribed mold. Major League Baseball is really f***ing hard. A young hitter needs patience to succeed, but can't afford to be passive at the plate. Successful Major League pitchers throw the ball very hard, do a decent job of placing their fastballs where they're harder to hit, and compliment those fastballs with some pretty effective off-speed stuff.

It may be frustrating to watch a player like Rosario be overaggressive and contribute to getting himself out, but it's a very hard game, and the line between success and failure is quite thin. By the same token, as much as I have been impressed with Andrés Giménez, it's based on just over 100 plate appearances. I would have to see more from the kid before I'm certain he's even the short-term starting shortstop for this team, assuming that the Mets owned by Steve Cohen will spend and be contenders in 2021.

One thing I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do would be to trade for a shortstop, even if a very good one is available. The Mets have so many shortstop options with Rosario, Giménez, Guillorme, and Ronny Mauricio. They have vital needs that lack in-house options, such as starting pitching. They have limited minor league impact talent to use plugging into their own Major League roster or as trade chips. Hopefully, in a few years, the Mets will have a strong and deep system that would allow for both, but for now, they'd better make some very wise decisions with what little they have.


A quick personal note. My back surgery has progressed really well. I'm back walking in the woods with my dogs 1-1/2 - 2 hours a day, working part-time, and also dealing with some more doctor's appointments. I'll be increasing my work hours this week, hopefully back to full-time soon.

When I started writing this blog, it was during the COVID-19 shutdown here in Connecticut. Then I hurt my back and was stuck on my couch from May through late July. I have to develop a personal routine that incorporates work, exercising the dogs and myself, and writing. It may take a few weeks to work it all out. In the meantime, it might be a struggle to get everything done. If I don't post for a couple of days it doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing, just that I was a little overwhelmed by days so full of activity for the first time in 6 months. Eventually, I'll figure out the best routine and it will be easier to be consistent. I do appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my stuff, and I want to make sure that any content I post here is something that is reflective of my best work.

I have more thoughts to share along the lines of Thursday's post. We'll get that done this coming week.

Please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos


  1. I like your writing, Mike. Your comment about a "balanced" approach to hitting, on an organizational level, tied into some thoughts I've been entertaining recently about Dom Smith and Pete Alonso. For starters, I'm not looking to trade anybody; and, secondly, I don't think we have enough information yet. Except I will say, to my surprise, that this season Dom has certainly outplayed and outhit Pete in every category. He's shown himself to be the better, all-around hitter. This season, Pete -- like Amed, sadly -- has thrown away more ABs than anyone I've seen in recent memory. I wonder if he's been especially hurt by the lack of in-game video recent (JD Davis, too), and the absence of Chili. But anyway: Could it be that Dom would be the better, more "balanced" hitter (and overall player) than Pete Alonso come 2021? I personally find it amazing to even ask the question. I believe it would be a mistake to draw too many big conclusions based on this weird season. It could be that Pete is a classic #6 type hitter, the all-or-nothing slugger, the "dangerous" hitter who is not necessarily a "good" hitter. That said: 120 RBI in 2019. It's an interesting puzzle. Last note on the "balanced" hitter issue: I like lineups to be balanced, for teams to be balanced, rather than chasing the idea that individual hitters should all conform to that model.

  2. Thanks for the compliment. You might be right about Pete being the classic #6 hitter. In fact, if his game doesn't change that almost certainly is what he is. I do think he has the potential to be more than that. He has so much natural power, he doesn't need to try to pull almost everything


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